Thanks for the introduction, Rocket Man. It was much kinder than the one you gave me at the Dartmouth “Fall Novice” debate tournament in 1970. Speaking of 1970, I recommend Michael Lind’s book Vietnam, The Necessary War. Lind left the conservative movement years ago, but his book is necessary reading for those who wish to understand fully the dishonesty of the anti-Vietnam War movement.
In 1967, presidential hopeful George Romney claimed that the Johnson administration had “brainwashed” him into supporting the war. But Lind makes it clear that it was the anti-war movement that did the real brainwashing. In his chapter “Disinformation,” Lind explodes one-by-one the myths (past and present) that are dearest to the movement: the myth that the U.S. missed opportunities to become friends with Ho Chi Minh; the myth that Ho’s brutal “land reform” was a mildly excessive but worthwhile effort to improve the lives of North VIetnamese peasants; the myth that a coalition government involving the National Liberation Front was possible; the myth that the U.S. bears part of the blame for the class genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; the myth that an immoral war turned American soldiers into emotional wrecks (Lind shows that Vietnam veterans fare better or no worse than the civilian population in terms of employment rates, divorce rates, and suicide rates); and so forth.
Lind also documents the dishonesty of the journalists who embraced the anti-war orthodoxy. He explains how the New York Times misrepresented what the Pentagon Papers said in ways that made it appear that the adminstration was lying to the public about its intentions with respect to escalating the war. And Lind calls David Halberstam’s biography of Ho Chi Minh “the most sympathetic portrait of a Stalinist dictator ever penned by a reputable journalist identified with the liberal rather than the radical left.” According to Lind, Halberstam’s book about Uncle Ho “omits any mention of the repression or atrocities of [his] regime” as well as “any mention of Soviet or Chinese support for North Vietnam after 1949.” Even more chilling is Lind’s quotation from the conclusion of Frances Fitzgerald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning effort Fire in the Lake, in which she talks of a time when “the narrow flame of revolution [would] cleanse the lake of Vietnamese society.”
As we move towards war with Iraq, we face the reality that liberals of Vietnam-era vintage tend to disbelieve nearly everything the government tells them about the world, while hanging on every pronouncment of the New York Times. Lind helps explain the origins of this unfortunate state of affairs.
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